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When He writes “forgiven”

In a small town in the South during the Great Depression, there was a Christian physician widely known for his medical skill and for his kindness.

After his death, when his books were examined by his wife and other heirs, there were many accounts which had written across them in red ink the words, “Forgiven—too poor to pay.” The wife and heirs were not as kindly disposed as the old doctor, and they determined to collect these accounts since they added up to quite a large sum of money.

They sued for the money. The judge asked the wife, “Is this your husband’s handwriting in red?” She answered that it was. The judge shook his head and said, “In this case, there is not a tribunal in the land that can collect this money, for he has plainly written ‘Forgiven’ on these accounts.”

We can be sure that when the Great Physician has written “Forgiven” on our spiritual debts, we have been forever released from them.

—Author Unknown[1]


[1] Lewis, B. (1991). And then Some …. In Christianity Magazine: August 1991, Volume 8, Number 8 (8). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.

Introducing my Philippians podcasts

This is a sample of what I’ve just started on my podcast channel. I’ll post two a week through the book of Philippians. You can access these and sign up to listen at this link.

Opening Slide Philippians

First, about Philippians …

Philippi was one of the principal cities of Macedonia; historically famous as documented in Greek and Roman history. It was the location of a Roman military colony, set for the defense of Roman interests. Founded by Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, it was located in the province of Macedonia, along the northern coast of the Aegean Sea.

The Acts background can be read from Acts chapter 16. That evangelistic effort resulted in the beginning of the local church there. Lydia, from Thyatira, was baptized “and her household.”

As Paul and Silas continued the work in Philippi, they came into collision with an alleged “fortune telling” person (a woman possessed with an evil spirit, being used by men for their profit).

When Paul expelled the evil spirit from her, “her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone,” so “they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.”

False accusations were made. Paul and Silas were put in jail.

In that unlikely location for a singing, Paul and Silas were heard singing praise to God. There was an earthquake; the prison opened up, and the jailer started to kill himself.

Paul shouted to the man, “do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Paul preached the gospel to this man, “and immediately he and all his family were baptized.”

Released from prison, Paul and Silas visited Lydia, before their departure.

Sometime later, Paul was inspired by the Spirit to write to these Christians in Philippi.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – Phil. 1:1,2

To be a “servant of Christ Jesus” includes responding to the needs of saints, and in this case, that included providing teaching with encouragement.  Their interest in the church at Philippi begins with their wish or greeting of GRACE (generosity) and PEACE (harmony) from God.

The members of this church were all saints (set apart for God when they obeyed the gospel of Christ).

Qualified male saints became overseers and deacons. This was not involuntary service, but God’s use of good men who were anxious to do all they could to further the Lord’s work in that place.

Spiritually, these Christians were located in Jesus Christ. Physically, they were located in Philippi.

I hope this is being heard by servants of Jesus Christ, and that your commitment to Him is your way of life.


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by Mark White

Before the coronavirus pandemic, I would certainly not have known what the acronym, PPE meant. In fact, I had never heard the term before. However, medical personnel are quite familiar with “Personal Protective Equipment.” N95 masks, disposable gowns, gloves, face shields, shoe coverings— all of these items are necessary equipment to keep health care workers safe as they do their job of caring for those sick with the virus. Recent discussions about mask-wearing in the general population are also a part of these PPE requirements. School children and teachers who return to the public classroom will be wearing masks and face shields. Hand sanitizer will be in easy reach. Soap and water will be abundant. The same is true for those who are still working at public jobs where they must interface personally with other people. PPE is a huge deal right now in the fight against the spread of this contagion.

Christians have been outfitted by God with personal protective equipment in a spiritual sense. Read carefully Paul’s description of both offensive and defensive equipment we are given as we wrestle against spiritual threats, from Ephesians 6:10- 17: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (NASU, emphasis mine, MW)

These images of battle equipment should call to mind the true struggle we all face against sin and unrighteousness in our personal lives. Our enemy, Satan, is using every available means to attack us and render us useless to God and His cause. Arm yourself so that you can be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. —

Thanks to Mark W. White

Midweek Messenger

July 8, 2020

Published by the Cy-Fair church of Christ, Houston, Texas

Memory, Association, Attitude

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. – Phil. 1:3-5

Think about memory, association and attitude. Paul tells the Christians in Philippi that he remembers his good association with them. And, that this memory is entertained with an attitude of joy and gratitude to God.

Paul first came to Philippi, simply to preach the gospel to the lost. As he undertook that challenge, he was mocked, seized and imprisoned. He was not treated well in Philippi (see 1 Thess. 2:2).

But now (as a prisoner in another place), Paul is able to write back to Christians in Philippi without any bitterness. He remembers them with an emotion of joy.  “I thank God in all my remembrance of you.”

Just pause here and reflect on how valuable this attitude is. What a high example and standard for us to imitate. It is positive, mature, godly and healthy – to remember the good and reject bitterness and resentment. The painful things of the past ought to be managed by exalting good things and good people. Gratitude to God makes this conceivable.

There is another part of this good attitude toward the saints in Philippi: “…because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

How did they “partner” with Paul? What was the nature of their participation or fellowship?

The Christians in Philippi acted toward Paul, based on their commitment to God. They were committed to God, therefore committed to His servants. Not only through prayer.

Later in this epistle we learn that they responded to Paul’s needs. They sent aid to him once and again (Phil. 4:16).

It was not just that Paul was in “their thoughts and prayers,” though that is certainly true. Their commitment to God led to their sacrifice for His servants. Their interests in the lost caused them to support those who faithfully preached the gospel to the lost. Their love for brethren prompted their active love for Paul. All of this can be summarized as their fellowship with Paul.

Because they were connected with God, they were connected with His servant, the apostle Paul. 

My Pre-recorded Bible class content, first class in Philippians, Click Here.

Godliness Makes The Difference

Godliness Makes The Difference

Warren E. Berkley

Samuel Johnson prepared a monumental work first published in 1755, Dictionary Of The English Language. He read the great works of English literature, devoured text books, catalogued massive libraries, organized a staff of writers and research people, and lived in pursuit of the task for almost ten years.

Johnson was an enigma in person. A brilliant master of words and syntax, but a miserable man who was often broke, alienated from family, struggling with failed relationships and never with full commitment of heart to be a godly man.

Reading a book about Johnson’s struggles, I’ve become reacquainted with the fact that intelligence and eloquence never finds their highest potential without godliness. For one thing, an intelligent eloquent writer or speaker can say almost anything well, regardless of heart and life.

Samuel Johnson, for example, wrote against the use of alcohol: “these liquors, my Lords, liquors of which the strength is heightened by distillation, have a natural tendency to inflame the blood, to consume the vital juices, destroy the force of the vessels, contract the nerves, and weaken the sinews . . . they not only disorder the mind for a time, but by a frequent use precipitate old age, exasperate diseases, and multiply and increase all the infirmities to which the body of man is liable.”  {See Prov. 20:1}

Johnson, however, wrote with equal eloquence in favor of alcohol: “The Cyder, Sir, which I am now rescuing from contemptuous Comparisons, has often exhilarated my social hours, enlivened the Freedom of Conversation, and improved the Tenderness of Friendship, and shall not therefore now want a Panegyrist. It is one of those few Subjects on which an Encomiast may expatiate without deviating from the Truth.”

Give a good writer almost any subject of controversy, and he can write well on either side. We recognize this as duplicity.

Godliness enables us to use our talents with integrity and reverence to God. Godly people serve God and others in high quality because they have given their talents to God, to be used under His instruction and for His glory.

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Heb. 13:15

Johnson Quotations from the book Samuel Johnson: The Struggle, by Jeffrey Meyers.

No Fear of Death

No fear of death

Writing on the subject of fearing death, Leslie Weatherhead, noted English writer and preacher, once drew a parallel between the beginning of life and what is often perceived to be the end. A baby would never choose on its own to leave the security of its mother’s womb, so safe, so secure, so warm, he said. But Nature prevails and when the time is right the baby is sent forth into the uncertain and unknown. But what a surprise awaits the child—a loving mother holds it close to her warm body and she feeds it and cares for its every need. All around are people who shower affection upon it.

Is it not much the same, Weatherhead speculates, at death? Again, we are reluctant to leave, reluctant to embark on an uncharted journey into an unknown land. But if the Bible is true, there awaits for all who believe in Jesus a wonderful welcome, full of affectionate reunions, full of joy and unprecedented love and peace. With such a prospect in store, we need have no fear of death.

—Linda Gramatky Smith in Christianity Magazine,

[1] Lewis, B. (1986). And Then Some …. Christianity Magazine, 3(8), 8.


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 Enter, Because

(Matt. 7:13,14)

Warren E. Berkley

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” (Matt. 7:13,14).

The word “enter” combines two simple concepts: action and access. When you approach a building and see a sign that says, “Entrance,” you move in that direction, through a door; you take action to gain access.

The God of heaven sent His Son to die for us. Based on that atoning sacrifice, even though we have sinned, God offers us access into His favor and His family. Through the gospel, God informs us, appeals to us and invites us in – to enter; to come into the Kingdom. If we want access, we must take action – the action God has specified. Those who desire access into the blessings and fellowship with God must take action (see Acts 2:38). Jesus said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door…,” (Lk. 13:24). When you hear the gospel, believe in Christ, repent of your sin, confess your faith and obey the Lord in baptism – you are entering (action to gain access). As you remain faithful to the Lord, you are remaining in that place you entered. We have “access by faith into this grace,” (Rom. 5:2).

Note, there are two gates: the narrow gate and the wide gate. Little deliberation is necessary to discern which gate should be entered. Modern thinking favors the broad gate: do anything you want; go anywhere; join any church; take any path; make any choice; do what is easy! Jesus doesn’t speak nor condone the carnal appeal. There is a single-minded narrowness of focus in His words, compared to the carefree, crowd-pleasing broad way of the world. Now good things abound in this narrow way. Great blessings await those who choose to be citizens of the kingdom. There is no better way of life, than to live in fellowship with God, in surrender to the authority of Christ. Only in the King’s narrow highway is the willful spirit conquered.  Only in the narrow way is there “the way that leads to life,” and sadly, only a few find it.

Look through the rest of the seventh chapter of Matthew. Carefully observe: two gates, two kinds of fruit, two foundations! Will you be saved or lost? The appeal is clear and urgent.

Complementary Parts of a Whole

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Men and women are one and equal in their relationship to God and to the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26–28). They are “joint-heirs” of God’s eternal purpose (1 Peter 3:7), called to the same glorious destiny (Romans 8:28–30). But if their ultimate nature and destiny are the same and much that they are to be in life is identical, there is an essential dissimilarity in the sexes that is not cultural but real. They were made to be complementary parts of a remarkable whole. By this reality the wonder of marriage is made possible. There is one glory of the man and another glory of the woman.

Woman was the grand climax of God’s creative tour de force. For the man she was the absolute marvel of the created universe because she answered perfectly to the emptiness inside of him (Genesis 2:23–24). No light in the heavens shone so brightly in his world as she did. Mountains and forests and seas paled beside her. The woman was made for the man, to be his helper and companion in the great adventure to which God has called them both. She was to be the crown on her husband’s head (Proverbs 12:4).

[1] Earnhart, P. (Ed.). (1995). Theme Editorial: Proverbs 31: The Ways of the Worthy Woman. Christianity Magazine, 12(10), 11.

Check Your Vision

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Full Peripheral Vision

(Eph. 5:15)

Warren E. Berkley

“See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,” Eph. 5:15.

Paul gives instruction for our good in this verse. And this is about the sound combination of mobility (walk) and full peripheral vision (circumspectly). God’s people are to be mobile and that mobility must be accompanied by circumspection, which simply means looking all around; full peripheral vision! Webster says of “circumspect” – Attentive to all the circumstances of a case or the probable consequences of an action; cautious; prudent; wary. The Greek word centers on diligence; taking care to guard against temptations and to live as one should through them.

When Jesus made His “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem, and in Mark’s report of this arrival, it is said of Jesus, He looked around at all things (Mark 11:11). We do not believe this was the casual observation of a tourist, nor any limited focus. This was the serious perspective of One who was attentive to all circumstances. He had full peripheral vision of all that was happening in the behavior of Jerusalem’s people.

Like Jesus, we must look around at all things, being watchful with prayer; alert to the varied and subtle approaches of the enemy, and ready to abide in the Word of God through whatever temptations or trails may come. Let us not wander through life as fools, but “as wise.” To this I should add, be watchful of opportunities to serve others, reach out to them, listen to them and be equipped to help in the best way possible.